Category: Historical Fiction


Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth
ISBN-13: 978-0786838608
Hyperion Books, New York, 2009
304 p.

GENRE: General Fiction

TEASER: Leela is a twelve-year-old widow. As a widow she is an outcast. But changes is looming in early 1900s India. Will Leela be able to make a life for herself after all?

SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Leela has been doted on by her family all her life. She pays little attention to her country’s growing unrest. There is no point for her to. Her future has been mapped out for her since her engagement to Ramanlal at the age of two. They have been married since she was nine and soon she will move into his house and start her new life as his wife. But all of that changes when Ramanlal is bitten by a snake and Leela is made a widow. As a widow she is an outcast and is not allowed to leave the house. She must only wear a black sari and shave her head. Leela goes from being the prize of her family to the seat of their shame. But the activist Ghandhi is trying to take back their country and change the rigid social system that has been in place for centuries. maybe Leela will have a chance to fight for her rights and her future after all.

CRITIQUE: This story is told through the eyes of Leela in first-person perspective. Leela’s character develops quite a bit in this novel. She starts off as a naive girl who only cares about pretty bangles and sari. She is in one of the higher castes and pays little attention the inequalities in her country. When her husband dies, she is forced to see what it is like at the bottom of the social structure. She learns how to open her eyes to the ill-treatment of widows and the rising tensions between the British and her countrymen. She is able to take control of her future and ask her father to let her take the exams that will allow her to be educated.

Sheth’s prose are rich with Indian culture. There are however a good deal of Hindi words used. There is a translation section in the back of the book. I mentioned similar problems with Down to the Bone. I feel if might have helped to be at the front of the book. This is probably just a personal preference. I do feel that the language adds a richness and sets the atmosphere for the novel.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kashmira Sheth was born in Bhavangar, India. She moved to the United States at the age of seventeen to attend college at Iowa State University. She majored in microbiology. After college she worked as a microbiologist at Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. Some of her other titles include: Blue Jasmine, Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet, Monsoon Afternoon, and My Dadima Wears a Sari. The story of Keeping Corner is based on Kashmira’s aunt’s life.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://kashmirasheth.typepad.com/my_weblog/

READING LEVEL: 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES: Women’s Studies, Indian Culture

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss the changes Leela goes through as she is forced to take a look at the social structure when she finds herself at the bottom.

WHY INCLUDED: I wanted to included another cultural perspective in this database and I came across this book in my local library.

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Mary, Bloody Mary by Carolyn Meyer
ISBN-13: 978-0152164560
Graphia, New York, 2001
227 p.

GENRE: Historical Fiction

TEASER: Mary goes from crown princess and beloved daughter to an outcast servant in danger of her life.

SUMMARY: Crown Princess, heir to the throne, Mary Tudor has been lavished with attention since she was born. Everything changes when a mysterious woman appears in court, Anne Boleyn. Suddenly everything is changing in court. her father has started to ignore mary and her mother. He even sends them to distant palaces away from court. There are rumors going around that King Henry wants to marry Anne and to do that he must do the unthinkable. He must disgrace his wife Catherine of Aragon and his only daughter Mary. Soon, Mary is declared a bastard and her mother is sent into exile. Mary is only summoned back to court once Anne is queen. She is then forced to be a servant to her half-sister Elizabeth in a house where she was once master.

CRITIQUE: The story was told in first person perspective through Mary. The chapters feel rather like journal entries even though they are not specified as such. Meyer’s research is well done and as thorough. I felt Mary’s character was well done. You can really see the subtle hints of her future legacy. The story of Mary Tudor is usually just about her brief but bloody reign. This story paints Mary in a very human light. She is young, confused about what’s happening to her family, yearns for the affections of her father.

I love her interactions with the other characters as well. I felt that both Anne Boleyn’s character and Mary’s interactions with each other was very believable. I liked that fact that they depicted Anne as an evil temptress because in Mary’s perspective, she was. The relationship between baby Elizabeth and Mary is also believable. She would initially resent the little princess but through caring for her would have to develop some affections for them.

If I were to give any complaints, it would be that I felt Mary could have been depicted a bit more strict in her religion. The whole point of her slaughtering hundreds of people was that she was excessively pious like her mother. I suppose this could have slowly intensified after the novel ends. Either way, it was a thoroughly addicting read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carolyn Meyer is an author of more than fifty books for young adults and children. The majority of her work is historical fiction. Some of her other titles include: Beware, Princess Elizabeth, Doomed Queen Anne, Patience, Princess Catherine, and Duchessina: A Novel of Catherine de’ Medici.

Meyer’s was born in Lewistown, Pennsylvania. She is an only child. She and her husband live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She has three sons, two step-daughters, and three grandchildren.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.pattymccormick.com/

READING LEVEL 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES: British History

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: How do you think you would have handled the situation if you were in Mary’s shoes?

Mary later goes on to order the execution of hundreds of people. Do you feel this book helps explain how she could have turned into the bitter Bloody Queen Mary?

WHY INCLUDED: I have always loved historical fiction. I chose this book because I don’t often see mary Tudor’s character as a protagonist very often.